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Unless you’re in a league full of imbeciles who annually donate entry fees, fantasy sadness is an all too familiar feeling.
Every year a handful of high-profiled players tabbed for enormous statistical gains wind up delivering endless heartache and pain. Whether due to injury or ineptitude, seeing one’s roster cornerstone flop is soul crushing and often season-defining. Those who draft smartly can, and usually do, weather the storm. Others, however, become the tackling dummies of their league, a harsh punishment.
No matter how nourishing the environment or favorable the situation, busts happen. Since 2009, 43.1 percent of RB1s (Defined as players drafted inside the position’s top-12 who failed to finish top-15) bombed. Among WR1s, 33.3 percent didn’t measure up. QB1s, meanwhile, stunk up the joint only 23.6 percent of the time. Last year Matthew Stafford, Montee Ball, Doug Martin, Keenan Allen and Brandon Marshall were a few prominent names that left investors resentful.
What pricey picks will drive owners to the bottle this year? Here are our top bust candidates:
Peyton Manning, Den, QB
ADP (From Fantasy Football Calculator): 38.6 (QB3)
If I'm going to use my late-third or early-fourth round pick on a QB (the average price tag for Peyton), it's not going to be on a 39-year-old with a recent history of quad and neck injuries, the former being used as the excuse for an ugly performance stretch over the final five weeks of '14 (though the injury occurred at the mid-way point of that slide) . And, if the guy is also losing a Red Zone Hoover like Julius Thomas, a velcro-handed chain mover like Wes Welker and three starting offensive linemen from last season, then I'm definitely going to look a different direction. And let's not forget that we also have to take into account a change at head coach (Gary Kubiak), which also means a change in offensive philosophy, one that should be decidedly more ground heavy if history tells us anything. If the early rounds are about minimizing risks, then avoiding Elder Manning as his career nears the cliff's edge is the prudent course of action. (Brandon Funston)
Arian Foster, Hou, RB
ADP: 8.4 (RB6)
Every featured back in the NFL comes with risk - it’s tackle football, after all - but I see more warning signs with Foster than the ordinary player. He’ll turn 29 right before the season, and there’s a fair amount of tread on the tires - he’s missed 14 games over the last four years, battling a laundry list of physical problems (last year it was hamstring, knee, hip and groin injuries). Only Marshawn Lynch has more rushing attempts than Foster over the past five years (a 46-carry edge), and consider Lynch has played in 13 more games than Foster. Houston’s bell cow takes on a lot of contact at 6-feet-0, 232 pounds, and I’d like to be more floor driven with my early picks, especially at the running back position. (Scott Pianowski)
[Fantasy Draft Guide: Safest Bets | Busts | Sleepers | Breakout Candidates | Top Rookies]
Kelvin Benjamin, Car, WR
ADP: 36.1 (WR15)
Last year, the scintillating performances of Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Jordan Matthews and Benjamin left the fantasy community thirsting for more. Their break out rookie campaigns, unsurprisingly, have raised expectations to near unprofitable levels. However, of all the second-year targets likely to experience a sophomore slump, Benjamin tops the list. To be fair, he's a preeminent red-zone threat. Tight end-like at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds and blessed with plus leaping ability, he's a menace near the goal-line. In one more game he enticed the same number of red-zone targets (17) as Rob Gronkowski. He should again be a preferred weapon of Cam Newton, but red flags are flapping in the wind. Benjamin missed 10-of-14 summer practices due to hamstring problems which caused him to pack on 10 pounds of unnecessary weight. The wideout said recently he's already shed the extra baggage and is healed, but I have my doubts. Hammies can flare up at a moment's notice. Just ask the dude who owned Miles Austin a while back. Couple that with adjustments defenses are bound to make, Carolina's conservative approach and Devin Funchess increasing competition for targets and it's plain to see the increased downfall probability. At best, you're hoping for a repeat of 2014 (73-1008-9). At his WR15 price, the margin simply isn't there. (Brad Evans)
Jonathan Stewart, Car, RB
ADP: 43.4 (RB21)
Coming off his most productive year since 2011, Stewart is going all Lisa Kudrow and attempting to make a fantasy comeback. With DeAngelo Williams soon to be suiting up for the Steelers, Stewart has been loosed from RBBC bondage and will assume Carolina’s workhorse duties. His ADP has soared accordingly. However, this volume that everyone is predicting is far from guaranteed. Head Coach Ron Rivera has never leaned on a single back. Not even in the Divisional Round of the playoffs where Mike Tolbert was tapped over Stewart on a crucial third down play. Speaking of Tolbert, the human bowling ball is back to full health and ready to vulture the end zone. And he’s not the only one. Fozzy Whitaker and rookie Cameron Artis-Payne are also in the mix. Still, the biggest threat to Stewart’s production is his quarterback. Cam Newton rushed the red zone twelve times and scored three touchdowns in 2014. J-Stew had nineteen attempts from the goal-line, but only managed two scores. Throw in Stewart’s obvious durability concerns and his current price tag seems a bit bloated, especially in standard scoring formats which are so touchdown dependent. (Liz Loza)
Travis Kelce, KC, TE
ADP: 54.8 (TE3)
I challenge you to go find a fantasy analyst — anyone, anywhere — who isn't extremely bullish on Kelce this season. Go ahead, take a minute to search. We'll wait. Nothing, right? It's amazing, really. We have never agreed on anything the way we seem to agree on the greatness of Kelce. Kansas City's tight end is carrying a fifth round ADP these days, and I've seen him selected much earlier than that — and everyone who picks the guy takes an immediate victory lap in draft chat. While I have plenty of respect for Kelce's talent (and we're all impressed at his recovery from microfracture), I really hate these situations where we price a player at a level where he needs to make a significant value leap. Let's not pretend the team context in KC so great; this team's passing offense ranked No. 29 last season and No. 24 the year before. When the Chiefs visit the red-zone, Jamaal Charles is basically the entire show. If you're counting on Alex Smith boosting the value of any member of his receiving corps, well, I mean ... c'mon. We're talking about a hyper-conservative quarterback and a low-yield passing game. KC only put the ball in the air 493 times last season, finishing with only 18 touchdown passes. No need to pay a premium price to get a share in this passing game. I'll take Zach Ertz in the eighth or Josh Hill in the eleventh, thank you very much. Kelce is all yours. (Andy Behrens)
Andre Ellington, Ari, RB
ADP: 45.0 (RB22)
Andre Ellington got 5.5 YPC during his rookie campaign, but he was one of the biggest busts as a sophomore last season, when that number dropped to 3.3. Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 56 runner out of 57 qualified backs, as Ellington got just 1.8 YPC after contact, which was the second lowest in the NFL. He played hurt, which undoubtedly contributed to his lackluster season, but there’s reason to be concerned about the 5-9 back’s durability moving forward, which is evidenced by the Cardinals spending a third round draft pick on David Johnson. Moreover, did you realize he’s already 26 years old? LeSean McCoy just turned 27 two weeks ago. Given his health risk and coming off last year’s truly dismal performance, I can’t see drafting Ellington as a top-25 fantasy back in 2015. (Dalton Del Don)
Follow the Yahoo fantasy crew on Twitter -- Brad Evans (@YahooNoise), Brandon Funston (@1befun), Dalton Del Don (@DaltonDelDon), Scott Pianowski (@Scott_Pianowski), Andy Behrens (@Andy_Behrens) and Liz Loza (@LizLoza_FF)